Institutional ‘lock-out’ towards local self-governance? Environmental justice and sustainable transformations in Dutch social housing neighbourhoods

S.C. Breukers, R.M. Mourik, L.F.M. van Summeren, G.P.J. Verbong

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Abstract

In their efforts to improve social housing neighbourhoods, Dutch housing associations attempt to encourage tenants to take a more active role. Generally speaking, bottom-up initiatives and participatory approaches have become popular among Dutch policy-makers as ways to achieve sustainable energy goals. While the rise of local energy cooperatives seems to support this view, we also see that particularly in deprived neighbourhoods, there is no bottom-up activity, nor will it occur without external support. This paper thus examines a case of an externally initiated programme in a Dutch social housing neighbourhood, aiming to place tenants’ needs at the centre. Applying an environmental justice framework, we address both the historical-institutional legacies and the tenants’ positions, showing how institutional pressures built up over time have resulted in a diluting of the programme into a top-down technology-pushed approach. The relevance goes beyond this case: without ensuring the quality of the participation, institutional lock-ins can produce perverse outcomes, with the programme failing to achieve its (energy-efficiency) goals while the intended beneficiaries lose out. As a counterweight, an active process of capacity building is proposed, using an environmental justice approach to examine the conditions for local self-governance and how to address these in a participatory intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-158
Number of pages11
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Volume23
Early online date2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017

Keywords

  • Energy efficiency
  • Environmental justice
  • Institutions
  • Neighbourhood
  • Path-dependency
  • Social housing

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